Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Beware of SCB's!

Many gay men will at some point in their lives have an encounter, experience or relationship of some kind with an SCB.

SCB stands for Straight/Conflicted/Bisexual. An SCB is a man who flits around the gay community and gay men for one reason or another but does not identify as gay. He may be straight (or simply say/think he is), conflicted (not certain what he is, which usually means he's gay but can't quite get past the shame/stigma of it even though he may know many happily Out and Proud gay men) or genuinely or technically bisexual, which especially in the latter case means he may date/sleep with both men and women but even if he has a decided preference for men will never admit it -- not even to himself. [This is in contrast to those openly bi-identified men who admit they prefer men and/or have strong sympathetic ties to the gay community. Okay, I'm being a little PC here. Sue me!]

Some SCBs are hustlers, go go boys, bartenders in gay bars, models, work in the porn industry etc. As I say, they flit around getting what they can get, but they have no gay pride whatsoever -- which is my problem with them. They want the advantage of being gay -- or should I say they want to take advantage of gay men -- but as macho as they may think they are they completely lack the courage to deal with any possible disadvantages of being out of the closet.

Frankly, I think these guys -- while they can at times be charming and attractive -- are asses and bores. They act like it's 1950 instead of the 21st century, like we haven't had forty years (and more) of Gay Lib. Their attitudes are strictly pre-Stonewall.

Some of them can, however, bring out feelings of lust, romantic yearning, affection, and even love in gay men their own age and (especially?) older.

I remember an older acquaintance, "Joe," who lived in Boston and had a lover we'll call Frank. Joe was older than Frank but the age gap was not that wide. The two lived together, travelled together, the two seemed in every way a couple. Frank and I would dance together in Boston's gay bars (Joe did not enjoy dancing).

On one trip to Boston I ran into Joe who told me that Frank had married a woman. He said he knew he liked women and was perfectly okay with it. How could anybody be okay with having the man they were in love with go off with someone else? I never did get all the facts. Was Frank bisexual, and did he prefer this woman (or perhaps more to the point, a straight life) to living with Joe? Had he only been using Joe (I mean, who was paying for their vacations together?) While I seriously doubt if Frank was totally straight, perhaps he -- and even Joe -- thought of himself as a heterosexual. Was Joe so in love, so lonely, that he'd take up with a "straight" guy, knowing all the while that he'd inevitably walk out on him? Was Joe invited to the wedding? Did he stand there pretending to be happy for the man he loved while his heart was breaking? Did he make any attempt to make Frank see that his marriage could merely have been an act of internalized homophobia? (Joe was not exactly an activist type, however.) We lost touch and I never got the answers to these questions, or learned how he ultimately dealt with losing his companion. I don't even know if he's alive.

I think some gay men just fall for these SCBs and desperately hope that they're not only gay but will eventually feel the same way about them. Or at the very least that the SCB will make the smitten one part of their lives. Maybe they hope that they'll be able to turn them into loving friends or son substitutes -- they're just so infatuated that they desperately need to be part of their lives in some capacity. (And of course there are some self-hating homosexuals who feel they can only love a "straight" man -- talk about pre-Stonewall attitudes!)

Another friend of mine fell in love with a younger, straight co-worker. He denied he felt this way -- for some reason the gay men who fall for SCBs never want to admit it (more on that later) -- but (as is always the case) he talked and talked about the SCB practically to the exclusion of all else, which is a dead giveaway, trust me on this. The two became fast friends, a friendship which has survived the straight guy's two or three marriages. My friend has sort of been adopted by the family, and is godfather to some of the younger man's children. For his sake I hope that by this time he thinks of the SCB as a good, loving friend and nothing more. But this friend has always had strong guilt feelings over his homosexuality, and a sexless relationship with a straight man is, to him, sadly, preferable to a romantic and sexual relationship with another gay man. [This is of course similar to the situation with married homosexuals.]

Since I have no guilt feelings over being gay, it was a surprise to me when I (briefly) became infatuated myself with one of these SCBs. This was a complete surprise to me and I was not in any way thrilled with the development. After a couple of months of intense, foolish feelings, something clicked in my brain and common sense prevailed. I made no passes, asked for no dates, and certainly spent no money (he was not a hustler in any case). Now a bar friend of mine has become "best buddies" with the very same guy, goes out to dinner with him, exchanges text messages, and so forth and so on. He vehemently denies that he is in love with him, but talks and talks and talks about him incessantly....

Oy vey. When I look at him and see the goofy love light in his eyes, I can only shake my head ruefully and think "better him than me." Who on earth knows where this will lead but I know it probably won't be anywhere good -- or at least very sexy.

I dodged a bullet and don't I know it!

We gay men do not need SCBs. There are plenty of Great Gay Guys out there, out and proud men who will never give us half the grief and bullshit of the SCBs. Sure, gay men aren't perfect, not every relationship works and some gay guys wind up married to Out and Proud stinkers, but at least you don't have to spend half your time wondering "Is he or isn't he?" or "Is he really 'bi' or just ashamed ?" and all the rest of the crap.

SCBs haunt the gay community like prick-teasing incubi. Hopefully some of them will finally grow up and turn into Out and Proud Gay Men -- and the rest will just go away!

Sunday, July 20, 2008

The "He Was Gay" Defense

There's something disturbing (on many different levels) going on in recent high-profile murder cases.

You could call it the "he was gay" defense.

That is, the defense team for an accused murderer (or murderess) suggests that the victim was gay, a closet queen, or had homosexual impulses, and that this was what led to their death. It wasn't their client who committed the murder; It must have been the proverbial gay stranger, someone they picked up, who stabbed them or bashed them to death. Why could it not have been a stranger of the opposite sex who did the deed? The implication seems to be that people who practice gay sex are somehow weirder, edgier, nastier than heterosexual people, it's that whole sick gay lifestyle. Men who have sex with other men are strange, perverted, somehow deserving of their brutal fate. Then there's the implication that closet cases are more likely than other gays to take chances with risky people.

Then there's the other side of the coin. Naturally the loved ones of the victim, as well as reporters and others, cry foul. Why, the victim isn't around to defend himself from "charges" of being gay. I find this even more obnoxious and perhaps even more homophobic. It's like being gay is the worst possible thing you can be.

The "he was gay" defense was used in two recent murder trails: the murder of Ted Ammon (pictured) at the hands of his ex-wife's lover, Danny Pelosi. And the trial of Nancy Kissel for the murder of her investment banker husband, Rob.

You've probably heard of these two cases. Nancy Kissel was the American woman in Hong Kong who poisoned her husband (who told her he wanted a divorce, thereby ending her cushy lifestyle) with a milkshake, and then left his body to decompose in a carpet. Smart, this woman was not. Her defense team made much of the fact that, according to computer experts, Rob spent several hours looking at gay porn and gay prostitute web sites not long before he died. While this doesn't necessarily make the man a closet queen (although it's certainly compelling) the defense introduced this material to make the jury feel that he was into sick, twisted things and this may have led to his death. However, they weren't able to come up with a suspect, a gay stranger or prostitute who may have poisoned him and put him in the carpet (and would he have had somebody like that come to his home? Hardly). Curiously, the toxicology report confirmed that Rob's body was full of the same prescription drugs that Nancy had recently received from doctors, all of whom would have made him sleepy and unable to defend himself from her attack.

In the case of Ammon, Danny Pelosi's defense team brought forth a man who claimed to have had sex with Ammon on the gay beach near his estate. Ammon supposedly called his girlfriend and told her he was walking near the beach and wasn't sure if it were gay or not. People have said that it was unlikely Ammon wouldn't have known about the beach's reputation. Would Ammon have mentioned that he was on this beach to his girlfriend if he was a closeted gay/bi, or was he afraid she would somehow find out about it and wanted a ready explanation? Was he testing the waters, trying to come out to her slowly and carefully?

On an episode of Dateline this past Friday (7/18/08) that went into the case, a man who had written about the murder trial for Vanity Fair was interviewed and poo poohed the idea that Ammon could have had an interest in men. "He certainly has had a long history of enjoying the company of women," he told Dateline. Which certainly doesn't mean that he didn't also enjoy the "company" of men. I still find it amazing that in this, the 21st century, there are people who don't seem to realize or recognize that many married men with children -- be they bisexuals or married homosexuals -- are fooling around with guys as well. (What made it stranger was that the Vanity Fair reporter, whatever his sexual orientation, was kind of "queeny." Does he think that because Ammon wasn't limp-wristed this means he can't possibly be gay?)

Both Ammon and Kissel may have been closeted gay/bi men, but this doesn't mean that contributed to their deaths, unless Nancy Kissel and Danny Pelosi found out about these interests and were homophobically repulsed, or felt they were deserving of death because they slept -- or wanted to sleep -- with men.

Many people have wondered what Ammon's wife Amarosa (who died of cancer) saw in Danny Pelosi, who I happen to think is one of the grossest, least attractive men on the planet. I mean, the man turns my stomach! Apparently she wanted to rub Ammon's face in the fact that she was sleeping, spending Ammon's money, with someone as dead-common and disgusting as Ammon was classy, handsome and successful.

Whether these two victims, Rob and Ted -- if they were gay -- would have ever accepted themselves and come out, we'll never know.

Their murderers took away that option forever.

Of course sometimes it's the prosecutors who use the "he's gay" bit to demonize a defendant. This happened in the case of a man who was accused of murdering his wife. She had supposedly fallen down a flight of stairs while drunk. Amazingly, this also happened to another woman in the guy's life a few years earlier. The defendant had contacted a male prostitute, who smirked in the witness box as he told of how they'd exchanged emails (but never met in the flesh). I wouldn't necessarily say it was homophobic of the prosecuting team to bring in the hustler, as sometimes married homosexuals do come to hate and resent their wives, but I've no doubt they were hoping the jury would have a negative reaction to his possible interest in men.

Just as I've no doubt that -- sadly -- many of the defendant's loved ones would think the "accusation" that he was gay was just as bad if not worse than his being accused of being a murderer.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Brokeback Mountain -- The Opera


First, let's deal with the movie. This is what I had to say about it when I first saw it:

BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN (2005). Director: Ang Lee.

This is based on a novella by Annie Proulx that appeared in The New Yorker in 1997. The story deals with an awkward, stumbling, but affecting love affair between two stoic cowboys, Ennis del Mar (Heath Ledger), and Jack Twist (Jake Gyllenhaal), both of whom marry women and have families while keeping the other in his heart – and having infrequent assignations -- until a tragic conclusion ends their affair forever. The story begins in 1963, when it was much less easy for gays to accept themselves and come out, but these men, especially Ennis, still seem comparatively closeted twenty years later when it was a different story. The film works on two levels: as an examination of the stifling, hypocritical, mendacious half-life inside the closet, and a sub-text of all the emotional damage that men like Ennis and Jack do to the women who innocently love them. The performances from everyone in the cast are excellent, with Ledger particular outstanding, although he doesn't register a strong enough reaction to the devastating news he gets late in the picture. In fact, the film tries a little too hard not to be overly sentimental or manipulative. The screenwriters aren't always on target. Since both del Mar and Twist are essentially homosexual, the movie doesn't have them getting jealous of their various opposite sex involvements, but two people in love would get jealous no matter what the sex of the other lover. The movie doesn't really delve that much into the ironies of the closet [when one says “I'm no queer” after their first sexual experience together, the other replies “Me, neither,” in spite of the fact that he's just taken it up the ass.] The sexual interludes are initially devoid of tenderness, kissing, but become more romantic – but never pornographic – as the film proceeds. Ang Lee proves a better director of dramas than of the action films he's done in the past. Not necessarily a masterpiece, but certainly an interesting, absorbing, and worthwhile motion picture. However, it's hard not to notice that this film doesn't exactly detail a positive, openly gay relationship between two liberated people, which Hollywood still may not be ready for. William Schoell.

The New York City Opera Company (NYCO) -- not to be confused with the more prestigious Metropolitan Opera Company (The Met) -- commissioned composer Charles Wuorinen to work on an operatic version of the original story. Proulx may or may not work on the libretto; Wourinen, who may or may not be gay, won't start work on the project until 2009. NYCO doesn't plan to premiere the work until 2013, by which time Wuorinen will be 75. But let's remember that Richard Strauss wrote some of his greatest operas when he was older than that.

Okay. A quick aside about the relationship between gay men and opera. There is none. I happen to love opera, but few of my gay friends of any age will even go with me. I know there are other gay guys who like opera, but we're not as large in number as people seem to imagine. Just another cliche about the gay community. (Although, may I say, that since opera is a pretty classy art form, if we all were opera fans, so much the better. But we're not. Trust me on this.)

This is how it came about. Tom Hanks played a gay man in the mainstream movie Philadelphia. He played a gay man who loves opera. Lots of people went to see the movie. And somehow it came into being the idea that not only are all gay men obsessed with show tunes, but with opera as well.

(I believe my love of this type of music has little to do with my sexual orientation. Rather I was raised by two parents who went to see virtually every Broadway show that opened, and my mother and grandfather were big opera fans. I was also lucky enough to have a good family friend who was very much into the art form as well.)

So what do I think about Brokeback Mountain -- The Opera? Well, I'll try to keep an open mind, but two thoughts do come to mind.

A.) Apparently Wuorinen is an very modern, atonal composer, and I happen to prefer music from the romantic period. My favorite operatic composers are Pietro Mascagni, Giacomo Puccini, Giuseppi Verdi, Richard Wagner, Richard Strauss, and Erich Wolfgang Korngold (who slummed when he wrote some excellent scores for Hollywood movies but was essentially a composer of opera). If I felt Wuorinen had the stuff of these guys, that would be one thing, but few if any modern composers do. I have a feeling if the opera works at all it will work because of the story, not the music. I fear it will be two or three hours of blathery tuneless "arias" that no one will want to hear once, let alone twice. But I could be wrong.

B.) Here we have an opera -- one that may well get a big attendance -- not about two Out and Proud gay men who happen to suffer the torments of a homophobic society, but two closet queens. Admittedly there may seem to be more drama and poignancy in this situation. Or at least straight people and married homosexuals may think there is.

Jeez. Let's see. Just what we need. An opera about married homosexuals.

Oy vey!

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Gay Pride Doings


Okay, these are two things I don't usually do on this blog, run sexy photos like this one of these two leather guys kissing, and talk a bit about my personal life. But what the hell?

Gay Pride weekend didn't quite go off the way I intended it would, but what can you do? I think the Gay Pride March in New York is extremely important, but I can also be a little cynical about it. I wonder how many of those marching -- or parading -- go right back in the closet as soon as they get home. Still, at least it's good that they "come out" for that one day, though preferably we'd all be out 365 days a year. How else will people learn who and what we are?

Despite this cynical feeling I was going to march but a very close elderly friend of mine asked if I would accompany him to the PRIDEfest on Hudson Street instead -- the march would be too much for him. I agreed, but on the Sunday in question he didn't want to go out in the rain. Well, when you're elderly I say you've earned the right to say, fuck it, I don't wanna go and that's that! But by the time he'd come to his decision the march was nearly over.

It's too bad the PRIDEfest --due to permit hassles and so on -- had to be held the very same day as the March. The rain came and went but it was not a terribly festive event, at least when I was there. There were the usual booths selling food and other items like are featured in every other street fair. The thing that made this one different were that now and then there'd be a booth from GMHC, the New York Blade, Human Rights Campaign, and so on, and if some people from small towns were able to gain info and insight from these booths, I guess the PRIDEFest served its purpose. I saw none of the promised street entertainers but at least we were spared mimes (sorry).

So that night I was all ready, willing and able to party. I made new friends, saw old ones, and re-connected with some people I haven't seen in a while. I had a great time all told, although there were "incidents" in every bar I went to.

Down at the Dug Out at the bottom of Christopher Street I ran into a guy that I was supposed to have a date with on Friday (we'd met some weeks earlier in a bar). Unfortunately, there was some confusion and misunderstanding and it never came off. He was not too thrilled with this development -- neither was I, of course -- and I wanted to sink into the floor with guilt and slink out the back door. Still, it was odd. He said he had the use of a friend's apartment for the night and wanted me to come up. Instead of simply giving me the address and apartment number -- which, after all, would be the usual thing to do -- he told me he'd meet me on one of the four street corners nearby, this on a busy Friday night on one of the busiest intersections in Manhattan. It just seemed weird to me, and it seemed even weirder when he later told me that he did this because "I didn't know the address."

"But you told me you were calling from this friend's apartment?" I said. How could he not know the address? And there was some other stuff relating to this, none of which made much sense.

You see, I figured either he was blowing me off ("Gee, I guess we must have missed each other in the crowd") at best or at worst something else strange was going on. Was there even an apartment? Did he have the friend's permission to use it? Was I being overly paranoid? Possibly. But I decided not to go.

"I waited for 45 minutes!" he said. "I checked out every cab! What's wrong with meeting someone on a street corner -- You could go to an apartment and get jumped by four guys!"

I apologized profusely, wishing I had handled it all better, and knowing he had instantly classified me as "asshole." I mentioned a terrible thing that happened to an acquaintance of mine a few years ago. Still, I wish he had accepted some responsibility for what happened. I asked a number of people about it and everyone told me they also thought that meeting at an intersection when there was an apartment waiting seemed a strange thing to do. I had suggested to him that we might have a drink or two at a bar beforehand, but he said if it was up to him he'd rather we just get down to business. As one guy said, "it's like he didn't want to be seen with you in any bar where people knew you."

Too bad. He's probably a perfectly nice fellow, an attractive man, but all I can say is if I was as anxious as he says he was to get my hands on somebody I would have made damn sure I knew the address and the apartment number and told my date to ring the buzzer at the prescribed hour. But maybe that's just me.

Anyhoo, the next incident was at Ty's bar. My favorite place, it's generally a no-attitude bar and that's one of the things I like about it. Tonight, a few fellows brought an Eagle/Aren't I wonderful? attitude with them, these absolutely massive men brushing past everybody without even bothering to say "excuse me" as they stepped on your feet and practically knocked the drink out of your hand, not bothering to turn sideways or something so that they could walk on by without knocking into you.

Then there was the bathroom monitor, some guy I guess they hired for the night to direct the customers into which bathroom they should go. (Don't ask me why. We've never needed a bathroom monitor before.) Talk about attitude -- this guy had not a trace of friendliness about him and this in a bar where the staff is very friendly and down to earth.

To cap it all, I was cruised (I think) by a guy with a really bad pick up line: "I love my wife."

Well, then, go home to her and leave me the fuck alone. Yes, it was my umpteenth married homosexual talking about how he loved his wife (but was probably not in love with her) but absolutely hungered for a man. Conversationally, I asked if he might be bisexual, and of course he seized upon this, but we both knew he was homo, not bi, and that whenever he has sex outside of wedlock it's with a man. (You see, it sounds much better to say you're a "hip" swingin' bisexual than a pathetic old-fashioned closet queen.)

"I love my wife," he repeated. "What do you want me to do?"

I wanted to say, just leave me alone, that's what you can do, but before I could tell him I didn't want him to do a damn thing but go, he disappeared into the crowd, which is what married homosexuals always do when they meet someone Out and Proud who are in no mood for their bullshit. He wasn't celebrating Gay pride by coming out or getting past his shame over being homosexual, he just wanted to get laid and go home and lie some more to his wife.

Up at Boots and Saddle near 7th avenue, there was a lively, affectionate crowd. It's becoming a fun place again. Then suddenly I turn my head and find myself staring into the face of The Malevolent Munchkin of Christopher Street. How ironic to find him there on Gay Pride Sunday. Apparently he was working at some place across the street and was on a break or something. The last time we faced each other he was trying -- unsuccessfully -- to throw me out of the bar (he no longer works there) because I supposedly said something he didn't like. (Imagine, bartenders who want to monitor your conversation and insist you leave because they don't like what you're saying! And no, it wasn't because I had too much to drink, because you can practically be lying on the floor at Boots and they'll serve you.)

Mercifully, the munchkin took one look at me and went outside to chat with one of his former co-workers, now the manager. I used to be fond of the munchkin, but when someone I'm nice to treats me like shit I write them off at least until they apologize.

Munchkins! Married Homosexuals! Angry Intersectionists! Big Rude Guys with Attitude "straight" from the Eagle!

You never know what or who you'll run into on Gay Pride Sunday.